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A seven-round shootout, nail-biter victory at home on Friday night against Ivy League challenger Dartmouth gave Harvard (4-14-4, 4-8-4 ECAC) a much-needed extra point in the ECAC standings. When the game clock signaled the end of the third period, both teams were tied at five goals. With the win, the Crimson can now claim both regular-season matchups with Dartmouth, both of the walk-off variety.
This win comes just days after a stretch of back-to-back losses against No. 1 Quinnipiac on Feb. 2 and then in the 71st Annual Dunkin’ Men’s Beanpot tournament on Feb. 5 against Northeastern. After two tight, low-scoring games, beating Dartmouth required another hard-fought effort.
Harvard ceded a 4-1 goal lead to allow Dartmouth to tie the game at 4-4 by the end of the second period. And despite the eventual shootout goal from junior left wing Alex Gaffney, Head Coach Ted Donato first highlighted his team’s missteps before issuing any praise, singling out sophomore goaltender Aku Koskenvuo.
“I don't know if you can take too much pride in the fact that [we] probably went through seven or eight shooters,” Donato said. “Koskenvuo, after giving up the first goal, kind of settled in and really made some great, important saves.”
Harvard is currently ranked No. 10 in the ECAC rankings. Even though wins in the overtime and shootout periods do not count for a team’s record, Gaffney’s goal gave the Crimson an additional point that puts it a single team point behind Dartmouth.
Early in the first period, the Crimson failed once again to prevent the opponent from striking first, this time on a power play goal in the opening three minutes. The goal came after first-year center Ben MacDonald was called for cross-checking at 18:22. What emerged as a notable difference from recent games that had Harvard down multiple goals early was the team’s ability to strike back quickly. Still, the Crimson had missed opportunities early on: sophomore right wing Joe Miller had a potential goal waved off for an offside just over a minute after the Big Green scored, owing to a Dartmouth challenge.
The Harvard offense still fought hard despite the overturned call, which it was rewarded generously for on a later breakaway goal from junior captain and center Zakary Karpa. Karpa’s goal was Harvard’s first official shot on goal of the game, coming at 6:42 in the contest. Dartmouth had a similar breakaway opportunity minutes later from junior forward Sean Chisholm, but this time it was blocked away by Koskenvuo.
A strong close-out in the final five minutes for Harvard included goal at 4:30 from first-year Cameron Johnson and a drawn penalty against the Big Green in the final half minute for hooking. Johnson took the puck off a right-board tie-up and skated directly into the middle of the slot, undefended, for the goal.
Harvard motored on, scoring just over one minute and 30 seconds into the next period. Crimson first-year Ben MacDonald got the scoring flurry started after a dropped stick from a Big Green defender left a hole in the defense for most of the second-period power play sequence. The lead grew to two.
At 15:20, sophomore left wing Marek Hejduk joined the scoring sheet and extended Harvard’s lead to three. Hejduk took advantage of a well-timed Harvard line change and Dartmouth neutral zone turnover to skate quickly up the ice and shoot on Big Green sophomore goalie Cooper Black. It was after this goal that Dartmouth made a goalie change, subbing in first-year Roan Clarke.
A Harvard penalty came next at 12:17 for first-year left wing Salvatore Guzzo, an interference minor. Dartmouth capitalized a minute into the power play and came within two goals of the tie, 4-2. This marked the team's second power play goal on two attempts.
The hits kept coming, as the Crimson was penalized again at 8:31 for a dangerous tripping call that resulted in the felled Dartmouth player sliding almost a third the length of the ice. The power kill for Harvard finally stopped the Dartmouth downpour.
The Big Green would still go on to score two goals in the final four minutes of the second period, the second coming with 32.7 seconds remaining to tie the contest at 4. Gaffney, who tallied two points on the night, described the mindset of the team during the period’s difficult defensive sequences.
“Yeah, it's definitely terribly hard going down on a four-one lead and then tying it up but we never lost hope, and we kept pushing and kept playing our game,” he said.
Both teams found the back of the net in the last period of regulation. Harvard’s goal came at 13:34 off a cross-pass through three Dartmouth d-men that set up Gaffney for a between-the-legs shot. With time winding down, Dartmouth came back to tie it at 6:06.
Both teams netted a goal in the first two rounds of the shootout, with Chisholm opening it up with a score for Dartmouth and MacDonald finding his way around Clarke to knot it up in the second round. The third attempt for both teams was blocked, making it a sudden-death situation for both teams – since Harvard shot second, the Crimson had a chance to walk it off on home ice. Koskenvuo and Clarke both stood tall for three more rounds, before Harvard finally got one to go off a Gaffney attempt, handing the Crimson the victory.
As the team looks forward to more Beanpot competition this coming week, Donato explained what playing top-ranked Boston College will mean for the team in the wake of the Dartmouth win.
“It's a great opportunity for us to play one of the top teams in the country and try to find a game that is helpful to us as we come down the stretch,” the coach said.
Gaffney hopes that next week the team can bring the same effort and determination as Friday night.
“[T]he fact that we beared down and were able to get this win propels us very well for BC,” Gaffney said.
Harvard men’s ice hockey faces off against BC in the consolation match of the final round in the 71st Annual Mens’ Beanpot tournament at TD Garden on Monday, Feb. 12, at 4:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on ESPN+.
—Staff writer Nate Bolan can be reached at email@example.com.
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